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Showing posts from April, 2019

New Melbourne hotels have a gold medal location

Melbourne has new twin hotels sharing many of the same facilities in one of the best locations in town.
Located in the heart of the Melbourne CBD, next to the busy Hardware Lane dining precinct, Novotel Melbourne Central and Ibis Melbourne Central are just a few metres to Melbourne's shopping precinct with easy access to Docklands and Southbank by via a free tram ride.  For lovers of Asian food there are dozens of choices on the doorstep - as well as a spectacular Asian supermarket. I stayed in the very comfortable Novotel part of the building in a room that featured a giant flat-screen TV and free wifi. The room was spacious although the bathroom design was a little odd with the sink located in the bedroom. There's a well-stocked mini bar, a plethora of pillows and quality bathroom amenities. The lifts, too, are fast, not always the case in busy city properties.   
Well situated for business travellers - within close proximity to major office towers - the complex features a casual…

Discover the hotel with a fascinating Cold War secret

A new tourist attraction has opened in the Postojna Cave Park's Hotel Jama in Slovenia. 
One of Slovenia's highest-rated hostelries used to be a far from ordinary hotel.
It has some secret rooms, where unusual activities took place in former Yugoslavia. 
Now, guests can roll back the years and discover what was really going on in these rooms decades ago. 
Under the former regime, Hotel Jama lived a double life. Its secret rooms were not discovered until the hotel underwent renovations in 2016.

Since it was built in 1971, Hotel Jama has accommodated thousands of visitors to the world-famous Postojna Cave. 
But some of the rooms bear witness to the activities of the secret services of the former socialist system. 
Hidden inside the hotel building is a communications centre, which raises more questions than answers.

Who built it, what was was going on here, what was it used for and why was it secret? 
The stories are firing people's imagination and causing quite a stir.

The Secret Ro…

Discover the new shining star of the Yarra Valley

It has taken just a few years for Levantine Hill to become a Yarra Valley wine tourism icon. 
In addition to a superb range of wines crafted by former Yarra Yering winemaker Paul Bridgeman, there is an excellent tasting area, two eateries, a sculpture garden, splendid views and room for helicopters to land - which they do with regularity.


It's a family business, with owner Elias Jreissati’s daughter Samantha as joint managing director, and blocks in the home vineyard are named after all three of his adult daughters, as well as wife Colleen.

Jreissati arrived in Australia aged 18 from Lebanon, speaking no English. He started out with a sandwich shop, amassed a property fortune by age 25, only to lose it all. He then built it again through his Bensons Property Group.


The estate comprises two vineyards, one planted in the 1990s; the other with family blocks created alongside a truffiére. The first vintage was in 2012.

A new state-of-the art winery is being built on site, along with a c…

Best Choice Tokyo Airport Transportation

Here I give you all the details on the best and cheapest ways to get from Narita or Haneda airports to Tokyo.

Best Choice Tokyo Airport Transport
The Takeaway

Tokyo is served by two airports: Narita International Airport (NRT) and Haneda Airport (HND). Both airports serve international flights.Haneda is closer and more convenient to Tokyo but has fewer international connections.The best way between Narita and Tokyo is the JR Narita Express or N'Ex (Y3,020, 65 minutes). You can use a Japan Rail Pass to travel on the JR Narita Express. A Japan Rail Pass is definitely worth getting if you're visiting more than one city in Japan - see my comprehensive Japan Rail Pass guide to understand how it will save you money.Another option is the Keisei Skyliner which you can book online with GoVoyagin. See below for details and more options.The best way between Haneda and Tokyo is the Tokyo Monorail Line (Y490, 13 minutes on fastest trains) or a taxi (about Y6,000, 30 to 45 minutes). See below…

Hotel Sardonyx Ueno Reviews

If you really want to save some money and are just looking for a place to lay your head in the evenings, this newly renovated business hotel is a good choice. It’s a short walk south of JR Ueno and Keisei Ueno Stations, and very close to Ameya Yokocho Arcade.

Rooms are small but reasonably comfortable. There’s a restaurant where you can eat the breakfast that comes with your room rate. The staff tries hard to please. Everything is spiffy and new.

Due to the low prices, this hotel attracts bus groups and other budget tourists. Soundproofing could be better, so you may hear guests next door or in the hallway.

The main selling point here is the price: It’s among the cheapest decent hotels in Tokyo. So, if you don’t mind staying in Ueno and only want a place to sleep for a couple of nights, this is a good bet.


Profile About Hotel Sardonyx Ueno
Located in Ueno, Hotel Sardonyx Ueno is adjacent to Ameya-Yokochō and within a 10-minute walk of other popular attractions like Ueno Park. This 18…

A Barossa cellar door for lovers of chocolate

The Barossa Valley will tomorrow say hello to a new cellar door for chocolate lovers.

Barossa Valley Chocolate Company will become the first chocolaterie and cellar door in South Australia's most famous wine region.


Located in the heart of the Barossa Valley just outside of Tanunda, the Barossa’s newest tourist attraction is surrounded by vineyards that produce fruit  for Vineyard Road, whose wines are also available at the cellar door.

The $5.5 million chocolaterie and cellar door houses a state-of-the-art chocolate kitchen. 

Barossa Valley Chocolate Company CEO Chris Day, and his wife Sandy, travelled 100,000km around the world to sample the best chocolate experiences from the sweetest meccas - including Bruges and Florence - to seek inspiration. 

"The world-class Barossa Valley Chocolate Company has been inspired by the very best experiences from across the globe, from Bariloche in Argentina, to Napa Valley in the USA and the Chocolate Line in Bruges," Sandy said.

"Muc…

Best Hotels in Tokyo for Couples

The city of Tokyo is perched on the Japanese island of Honshu and is a beautiful clash of tradition and the futuristic. Exploring the wonders of this city is made all the more enjoyable with a hyper-efficient rail network connected the city’s 23 wards. The vast majority of Tokyo hotels are within a few minutes’ walk of a train station or two, meaning visitors to this city have less time to worry about how to get around and more time to enjoy themselves. The JR Yamanote train line boasts the city’s most popular areas.



Fast facts about Tokyo, Japan

Accommodations : 10,118 PropertiesPopular hotel : Hotel Sardonyx UenoPopular area : ShinjukuNightly rates from : $21Airport : Narita International AirportReasons to visit : Shopping, Sightseeing, Culture


Traveler impressions of Tokyo
Pros: - No haggling - Japanese are always straight to the point - They mind their own business - I personally thinks that Tokyo is a very safe place to visit - Clean - Easy to travel around with Bus / Public Transpor…

Big names head for Truffle Kerfuffle

Manjimup, in the heart of Western Australia's truffle country, will host a line-up of familiar TV talent at this year's Truffle Kerfuffle festival. 


Taking over Manjimup from June 21 to 23, the much-loved foodie festival will welcome one of Australia's most recognisable chefs, the controversial Pete Evans, alongside popular television personality and cook Poh Ling Yeow. 

There will also be a stellar list of local talent including Russell Blaikie (Must), Amy Hamilton (Liberte) and Paul Iskov (Fervor). 

Popular cook Anna Gare will be demonstrating dishes on the festival stage with MC chef Tony Howell.

Guests can expect long table dinners, cosy brunches, masterclass sessions in the Chef's Cabin, intimate wine tastings, a lively festival village, cooking demonstrations and a kid's cooking school. 

Manjimup is located in the Southern Forests region, a 3.5 hour drive south of Perth and Truffle Kerfuffle will be held at Fonty's Pool. 

For details see www.trufflekerfuffle.co…

Singapore to experiment with air taxis

Air taxis will soon be operating in Singapore - allowing passengers to avoid any traffic chaos below on terra firma

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has announced the first aerial trials will take place later this year, Travel Mole reports.

The air taxis are mini helicopters made by German company Volocopter and can accommodate two passengers in short hops of up to 30km.



The Volocopter can be flown with a pilot or remotely from the ground ( I don't like the sound of that very much!).

The new air taxis will have 'unprecedented levels of safety' said Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter.

"In order to be operating these vehicles in cities around the world, we need to be as safe as commercial airlines," he said. "That is the safety level that has been set for this vehicle." 

Tests will begin with a series of private flights over water manned by a pilot and then progress to public flight trials.

"We are looking at how we can use air transportation t…

The strange case of wine from Bhutan

My first thought was that reports vineyards are being planted in Himalayan mountain kingdom of Bhutan had to be an April Fool's joke. 
But the source was highly respected magazine Drinks Business and story was not dated April 1. 
It appears that over the past two weeks five small vineyards have been planted in Bhutan, covering a total of six acres. 

The project is the brainchild of American MW student Mike Juergens who first went to Bhutan to run a marathon and noticed that the conditions could be “ideal for wine”, with there being lots of south-facing slopes and iron-rich soils. 
He asked if there were any vines planted in the country and was told there were not.

Juergens laid out why he thought the country would suit viticulture and, once home, after some further research he wrote a white paper for the Government. 
For Juergens this represented a “glorious opportunity”. Living in California he explained there was always the possibility of planting his own vineyard. This, however, was …

Special hotel offers for Vivid Sydney festival

The Vivid Sydney Festival - a celebration of light, fun and ideas - runs from May 24-June 15 and the Metro Hotels group is offering a range of special accommodation deals.

Here is a selection of the offers at central locations. 
Metro Aspire Hotel Sydney – Vivid Brilliance Hot Deal – from $199 /night (Premium Room) Package includes glow bracelets and bottle of wine on arrival, 20% discount on dinner in Gumtree Restaurant and 50% discount on car parking. Metro web exclusive: free drink voucher in Gumtree Restaurant.

Metro Hotel Marlow Sydney Central (above) – Vivid Family Package – from $190 /night (Superior Double/Double room) This deal includes a Vivid gift bag on arrival containing a bottle of sparkling wine, chocolates and various glow items. Complimentary wifi and a kids' activity pack also included. Metro website exclusive - free drink voucher at Palace Hotel Sydney.
Metro Apartments on Darling Harbour – Vivid Brilliance Hot Deal – from $199 /night (Standard Apartment) This package …

Sri Lanka offers free visas on arrival

Sri Lanka is getting serious about enticing more overseas tourists by offering free visas on arrival for tourists from a host of countries starting next month.



The country saw an increase of nearly 5% in tourism in March and will offer a six-month free visa period from May 1 to travellers from more than 30 countries, Travel Mole reports.

"We will start granting a six-month free visa period from May 1 for selected countries during our lean period, to boost tourist arrivals," said tourism development minister John Amaratunga.

Free visa entry will be granted to nationals of the UK, the EU, the US, Australia, South Korea, Canada, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and New Zealand.

"As the next step of this program, we are planning on setting up a permanent system at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) to issue visa on-arrival, like in many other countries. We believe this would be a major breakthrough in attracting more visitors," the minister added.

The plan may be exp…

A chic city hotel offers room to breathe

When a hotel is named among the top 20 in Melbourne on TripAdvisor, you know it has a lot going for it.

For anyone who wants to be a walk from the city centre but still be able to stroll in parks and breathe fresh air, award-winning The Blackman, part of the Art Series group, is a very good choice.
Despite having 209 rooms, The Blackman has the vibe of a boutique establishment - with smiling helpful staff. Many of the rooms (there are several different configurations of rooms and suites) have views over Albert Park.

The interiors, dotted with prints of the late artist Charles Blackman, are modern and bright - and built within and above the historic Airlie Mansion, less than than 100 metres from Albert Park.

Each suite has a 42-inch LCD TV, an iPod docking station, refrigerator and microwave. There is also  smart car rental service and bicycle hire.

You'll find a tram stop directly outside and Melbourne city centre is only 2km away. It is a 10-minute walk to the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Mixed blessings for Hill of Grace fans

There is decidedly mixed news for lovers of Henschke Hill of Grace; regarded as Australia's finest single-vineyard wine. 

The 2014 vintage will be released Australia-wide on May 1, at a price of $845 per bottle. The quality is high (I'm wavering between 97 and 98/100), but the quantity is low, extremely low. 


So low, in fact that any Hill of Grace lovers who do not move promptly will almost certainly miss out on an allocation. 

The tiny yield of Hill of Grace 2014 is comparable to that of the previous 2013 vintage - meaning the wine will be in very short supply as all the fruit is grown on the one four-hectare vineyard. 

“We describe Hill of Grace 2014 as a vintage graced by beauty,” says Stephen Henschke. “Five years after watching the six shiraz blocks from the Hill of Grace vineyard in the Eden Valley transform from juice into wine in our open-topped fermentation tanks, we were captured by the beauty of the matured wine; with its complexity, interwoven layers and incredible len…

Christchurch named to host Pinot Noir Celebration

Christchurch on the South Island has been named as host city for the 2021 edition of the New Zealand Pinot Noir Celebration. 



Pinot Noir NZ was established in 2001 with the aim of bringing the world of pinot noir to New Zealand by creating an experience to “showcase everything unique about growing pinot in Aotearoa”. 
The three-day celebration is held every four years, when more than 100 New Zealand pinot noir producers gather, along with pinot enthusiasts, journalists and members of the trade, to explore the country’s most popular red variety.
The last event was held in 2017 on Wellington’s waterfront. The vent has not been held in Chrsitchurch before and will be a boost for a city that has been plagued by earthquakes and the recent mosque shootings. 
Pinot Noir NZ 2021 will be the sixth event and will also mark the event's 20th anniversary. 
“The New Zealand wine industry is becoming mature and confident, comfortable about who we are and how we talk about ourselves,” said Pinot Noir …

Explore the Australian outback from luxury spa cabins

The new $5 million Broken Hill Outback Resort has marked the unveiling of its new deluxe spa cabins, nestled in the Barrier Ranges with an opening package offering a free dinner with wine.

Outback NSW tourism company Out of the Ordinary Outback soft launched the resort, 13km east of Broken Hill, in September, 2018, with 40 camping and van sites but the completion of 12 new spa cabins this month marks an official ‘coming of age’ for the ambitious project.



Another 12 cabins will be completed by mid-2019.

Surrounded by the rugged Barrier Ranges as a gateway to the outback city, the Broken Hill Outback Resort is designed to help visitors experience the essence of the Australian outback in comfort.

The resort surrounds an old, stone hotel, now spectacularly restored by the Out of the Ordinary Outback group. It boasts a restaurant and bar inside the hotel, new cabins and caravan and camping facilities.

Each of the new self-contained cabins (below) offers a king bed, fold-out sofa, spa bath wit…

Komodo Island set to close

Congratulations to tourism officials in Indonesia, who are temporarily closing Komodo Island. 

While it might be bad news for anyone wanting to get up close and personal with Komodo dragons, it is good news for those who care about the environment. 




Komodo Island will be closed to tourists for a year from January 2120 to allow the habitat to replenish and ensure the island has sufficient food stocks for the flesh-eating lizards, said Marius Jelamu, a spokesman for East Nusa Tenggara's provincial government.

Park management want to return the island to its usual wild condition and keep it as natural as possible whilst providing the necessary infrastructure for visitors, Travel Mole reports.  

The Komodo dragon is one of the world's most famous mammals but is only found on a handful of tiny islands in the Komodo National Park.

Other islands including Rinca and Padar will remain open, local news outlet Tempo reports.

Komodo Island receives most of the tour groups. 

Local authorities hav…

Technology overhaul for Sydney hotel icon

The Sofitel Wentworth Sydney is the grande dame of Sydney international hotels and is celebrating her 53rd birthday with a major technology overhaul.
The six-month project commenced in October 2018 and has just been completed, with all 436 guest rooms and suites getting a new look.  Rooms feature new upholstered bedheads, artworks, carpets and high-backed fabric armchairs with matching ottomans. Mood lighting and floor-to-ceiling curtains are also new.  The technology overhaul brings the Sofitel up to speed with the launch of IPTV including Chromecast on all guest room TV's together with an upgrade to the fastest wifi to rival any of Sydney's newer CBD hotels.
To celebrate the makeover, Sofitel Sydney Wentworth welcomes guests to experience the new facilities over the Easter break with rates starting from $613 per room based on a three-night stay,a saving up to 25%.
General manager Philip Logan says: “Every Sofitel exudes a refined and understated sense of modern luxury, and this g…